Invisible Observer

In traditional journalism, reporters are invisible observers. They should not emphasize their own participation in the events they describe.


Avoid phrases like "when I asked her why she was eating cookie batter from the mixing bowl," or "I could hear giddy laughter coming from the next room." But also avoid passive revisions, such as "When she was asked" or "Giddy laughter could be heard."

A good strategy is to get witnesses to describe the scene, and quote their words.  Thus, if you are intervewing someone at his house and you want to record the fact that the sounds of the children playing in the next room are so loud that it's annoying, you might quote your source saying, "Alphonsus! Stop strangling Petunia. Or do it outside, Daddy's talking with The Setonian."

Unless you are a character in a movie from the 1940s, never use "This reporter" in your news articles. (In a pinch, you could write "The Setonian asked" if it is vital to know the answer came in response to a direct question.)
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1 Comments

Corey Struss said:

The idea of the invisible observer has helped me write my news stories so far this year. When I took newswriting in high school, I never used "I", but I did use "When asked, John said...". Now I realize that I should get direct quotes from the individual, and write the article as if I were observing, not directly involved in the story.

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